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Today is Earth Day and I wanted to post something.  This blog is seriously lacking in terms of posts, and I suppose with three jobs and a baby, it’s easy (and understandable) to devise reasons to dedicate my time elsewhere.  But I could make the time as I am today, so no excuses here.

Some Background: “The Pale Blue Dot” is a photograph of Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft.  It was none other than Carl Sagan, science popularizer himself, who requested that NASA turn Voyager’s camera around as it left our solar system after it’s primary mission had been completed.  The photograph of Earth was taken from 3.77 billion miles away – a distance hardly comprehensible to our human minds, yet explicit in its profoundness.  This unique perspective of our tiny world demands poetic reflection.  One such reflection was provided by Carl Sagan and provides a fitting Earth Day tribute.

So here it is.  One of my all-time favorite YouTube videos: Carl Sagan’s reflections on “The Pale Blue Dot,” set to the ambient musical stylings of Scottish post-rockers, Mogwai, and clips of recognizable hollywood-favorites and modern history.

The text if read silently on its own struggles to live up to the profoundness of the photograph.  But this is less a comment on Sagan’s talent with the pen, and more a recognition that perhaps in this case, a picture really is worth more than a thousand words.  Sagan’s voice and cadence makes up for some of this by providing a professorial yet fatherly tone – something between a soft, intimate conversation around a campfire and the on-edge dialog of The Matrix’s Agent Smith.

Mogwai provides the background canvass for Sagan’s vocal air-brush with their song: “Stop Coming To My House.”  It would be difficult to select a more fitting piece of music to go with Sagan’s reading.  The song seems to bring the epicness of the photo into almost conceivable expressions.  Whatever it was that Sagan lacked in word and voice, it is somehow made up by the textured echoes and slow arpeggiated riffs.  Through the song we begin to feel in a deeper sense the meaning for the photograph.  This complimentary nature between word and melody obviously isn’t new, but it is here that we have a prime example of why poetry is supposed to be heard out loud and how music (if it fits the poem!) can enhance the experience.

While the pastiche of movie clips often feels contrived and is at times distracting, for the most part I think it captures the poetry and meaning of the work as a whole.  In many of the clips, having seen the movie and recalling the emotions invoked from them assists in the overall experience.

In regards to the text, I absolutely love the raw, awe-inspired emotion.  However I think he gets it wrong when he says things like “On a scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential” and “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.”  I don’t necessarily think he gets it wrong, it’s the logic behind it that I have a problem with.

I disagree with the notion that simply because we are so small and are in no way physically “central” to the Universe that we are “inconsequential” or “not important”.  Maybe we are those things, but it seems irrational to use size and centrality to make that argument.  There are plenty of things in this Universe that are incomprehensibly small, like electrons, but as it turns out, are quite important and meaningful indeed.

I think the photograph does make us ponder those things and perhaps it does challenge those notions, I just think it’s a mistake to equate size and position with importance and significance.  I have the same sort of problem with an argument on the other side: I have major problems with those who espouse the anthropocentric worldview simply because we are smarter and otherwise more capable of control than all other species on the planet.  Intelligence isn’t a justifiable argument for the view that we are the most important beings on this planet.  And size (all jokes regarding the male anatomy aside) isn’t a justifiable argument for significance.

Everything else I completely agree with.  I can think of no clearer way to put what the photograph means to me than by Sagan’s final lines: “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.  It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known: the pale blue dot.”

Happy Earth Day, 2011

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Holiday Message 2010 – Unabridged

What a year it has been!  New beginnings galore!  New baby.  New jobs.  New opportunities.  I graduated from Boise State last December with a degree in business management and I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in terms of a profession, much less have any clue what I wanted to be when I “grew up”.  I wanted to keep my options open with a business degree but at the same time my passions lead me down different academic roads – hence my minors in history and philosophy.  In my last semester I fussed passion with practicality and realized the potential benefits of an education geared toward business while still pursuing the kind of life I wanted to live: a simple life, connected to the community, and close to the Earth.

I became interested in the local, organic food movement a few years ago for many reasons – concern for the environment andbenefits to personal health the chief among them.  My interest quickly grew deeper than that of a consumer, and I felt the call to pursue a life of organic farming.  I want to grow food not just for people, but for people I know and interact with.  I want to be in a profession where I know that I am leaving the land healthier than it was the year before.  I want to work for a movement that strives to make communities truly sustainable (environmentally, socially, and economically) and resilient enough to absorb shocks to the system.  I want to be apart of a community of farms, eaters, and restaurants that operate under a new paradigm of cooperation, openness, and concern for quality and people (as opposed to cost and the bottom line).

So I looked around for apprenticeship opportunities in the area, and Mary’s farm stood out immediately as the ideal place.  Being as new as I was to even the idea of farming, I thought it would be a positive experience to learn from somebody who had started out as I was, fresh to the field.  I also knew that Mary is an integral part of the Boise local food movement, and training under someone so connected would be extremely beneficial.  I loved how the farm raises ducks.  I lovedthe vision the farm enacted of an holistic system, striving for minimal off-farm inputs.  It’s easy to see Mary’s profound dedication to the health of the animals, to the land, and to the people who make her farm possible.  So I applied and I was, gratefully, accepted.

The apprenticeship was everything I had hoped it would be and more.  I had the unique and fortunate experience of being the only apprentice.  So, while I felt like a regular green-horn, I was treated like an integral part of the farm from very early on.  Every thing from the farm, to the crew, to the members that support us made it such an unbelievable experience.  I consider myself unbelievably blessed to have the opportunity to continue to grow (pun intended) at Morning Owl.  I can’t think of a better farmer, teacher, and friend to learn under than Mary, nor can I imagine a more passionate group of people to grow food with.  I would also be hard pressed to find a better community to grow food for.  I am pumped, monumentally pumped, for the future and for the movement.

 

During the summer I also became a father!  Just before graduating my wife and I discovered we would be having a child.  It was not unexpected, but we were surprised by the… ease of the sowing.  The pregnancy went swimmingly.

Kolbie was amazing and very much ready by the 14th of August (a few days past due) to have the baby.  Finally, at around 3:00 in the AM on August 15th, 2010, after a slow 16 hours of labor, the womb reached critical mass and launch was imminent.  At 3:16am we had our little girl, Danika Elizabeth Meyer.  She weighed 8 pounds 3 ounces.

There is an endless list of cliches regarding the birth of a child; most of them true, many of them incomprehensible, all of them devoid of the proper poetry to describe such a thing.  It is a fierce love.  A lovewe felt very early on in her pregnancy, and one that has only tightened its grip on our hearts just as Danika tightens her little hands around our fingers.  And, just like her, the love grows with every passing day, with every moment, with every soiled diaper, with every three-second smile, with every ambiguous cry, with every new face, with every new sound, with every self-discovery, with every flash from her pale blue eyes – it grows.  What fun.  What a challenge.  What a joy.

It can be a difficult thing to recognize the best times in one’s life while they are in the midsts of happening.  That’s not surprising.  It is in our nature, it is to our advantage, and it is the deepest and most powerful way to live our lives, fully in the present moment; not to be bogged down with yesterday, and not to be preoccupied with tomorrow.  But every once in a while it is not the slow rolling passage of time that is required for perspective and understanding, but a kind of present moment so power, so defined and crystalized in clarity, that full awareness of its significance in the great timeline of our life is not only inevitable, but profoundly imprinted on our character.  2010 was filled with these moments.

Here’s to 2010.  As it fades into memory, may it usher in a new chapter of growth and learning for 2011.

Entry #10 – 12/27/10

I have enough thoughts to fill this blog twice a day for a year.  The trouble is, none of those thoughts are complete and most of them are incoherent.  I need to remind myself that every blog needn’t be divinely inspired or labored over intensely.  For me to wait for such inspiration or to proceed with too much seriousness is to procrastinate and refrain due to the self-placed constraints of time and diffidence.

I simply must force myself into the habit of posting something at least once a week – otherwise it wont happen, as has been demonstrated.

I make this solemn late-night vow to do that.  And since a blog-vow un-posted is a blog-vow unmade, I shall post this; my third and most desperate post.

Entry #3 – 7/2/2010

 

Currently Reading:

The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer
By Joel Salatin

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
by Eliot Coleman

The New Organic Grower
By Eliot Coleman

Recently Read:

Eaarth - Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
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The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
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The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
by Ben Hewitt

Anthill: A Novel
by E. O. Wilson

Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests
by Jensen, Draffan

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